How using some emojis made me question the idea of eating meat.

By Jordan Ross

A selection of animal emojis found on most smartphones.

A selection of animal emojis found on most smartphones.

The many ways technology influences us is hard to grasp or fully understand. However, in one instance it made things crystal clear for me.

Emojis are fun symbols to add some more imagery to an online conversation or Instagram caption. Like many young people these days, I Instagram particular aspects of my life, often these moments are selective: a nice sunset, a landscape, or in this case, a picture of my food.

My family and I had gone out to dinner in Vancouver, Canada. It was the last day we would all be in the city together before they headed back to NYC. Being the meat-loving omnivore that I was at the time, I had in mind this Korean BBQ located in downtown Vancouver. The appeal of getting a plate of fresh meat and grilling it yourself still has some appeal to me, minus the whole meat aspect of things. 

So when the meat was on the grill, I whipped out my phone and snapped a picture. The social etiquette of that action aside, and the possible cringyness of it, it was during those moments spent on a caption did I connect the idea of meat to the realities of where it came from. Adding the cute looking cow, pig, and chicken emojis was when something in mind mind connected. A connection that was previously neglected because of biases and prejudices such as carnism and speciesism as well the modern reality of how we are disconnected from our food, particularly the animalized protein we consume (to take a phrase from Carol Adams in her book The Sexual Politics of Meat).

But like most strongly held biases, it took some time for things to fully sink in. The emoji revelation was a good example of how technology, and seemingly small acts, can influence and change people's perceptions to the world around them and the world they consume. But I wouldn't be honest if I said I went vegan overnight. It took a few more months until I fully realized that I needed to change in a fundamental way, and that's when I ultimately went vegetarian, only to transition to veganism a few months later.

So technology has a lot of power. From famous pig celebrities on Instagram and YouTube, to the minor act of using an Emjoi, it's clear that technology and information has the potential to change minds, even if only in small ways at first. The question is: how do we, as activists, make the most of this power?